Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 24, 2023

REVIEW: The Bushnell, "Moulin Rouge! The Musical!"

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
Through November 26, 2023
By Jarice Hanson
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The Bushnell has stepped up its game this year with touring companies that are better than ever. In the current production, a cast of 38 talented singers and dancers accompanied by an exceptionally tight 10-piece band bring the Broadway spectacle "Moulin Rouge! The Musical!" to enthusiastic audiences in a sexy, suggestive treat for the eyes and ears.
The plot is thin, but the story is secondary to this experience for the senses.  Scene designer Derek McLane has created a beautiful, appealing cavalcade of sets to simulate the original club, the Moulin Rouge, which opened in the Montmartre area of Paris in 1889 and where the cancan was born.

Seamlessly, the sets morph from the club to the streets of Paris, celebrating the bohemian life, and the elegance of the wealthy. McLane's work is complimented by Justin Townsend’s spectacular lighting design and Catherine Zuber’s risqué, gender-bending costumes. Choreographer Sonya Tayeh won a Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Award for her innovative dance and movement, and this cast delivers the intention of the choreography with energy and style.
When Baz Luhrmann created the original movie, "Moulin Rouge!," he used popular music as the soundtrack. In this staged production of the film, some of the music has been updated to include musical artists like Lady Gaga, for example, but the songs are all tunes the audience would know from other musical artists. There are no original songs written for the stage production, but those songs seem to take on a different meaning when interwoven into the sketchy story.
Gabrielle McClinton is a lovely leading lady who is the titular star of the Moulin Rouge, and Christian Douglas is the young American suitor with whom she falls in love. Both have wonderful voices that express great range and ability to interpret the songs. Robert Petkoff as the MC of the club delivers the comedy and Parisian smarmy quality expected in this type of spectacle; and Andrew Brewer is the sexy, evil Duke.  
The show is long – 2 hours and 45 minutes including intermission, and the two acts are somewhat uneven in action and pace, but that is not the point of "Moulin Rouge! The Musical!"
Audiences desiring a memorable story may be disappointed, but anyone who is familiar with the Baz Luhrmann film with be thrilled with the experience of being drawn into the environment of Moulin Rouge! the place, the experience, and the spectacle. The show is pure fun and fantasy, and very well done.